The 2b AHEAD long-term study: The Future of Your Children
What is going to be the next step of human evolution? How are our human bodies going to change in parallel with technologies that promise to slow or prevent aging? If we no longer become ill how is our immune system going to react? Are we going to be able to extend our brains? Who is going to be able to read our minds? Will we hack our emotions and compose new kinds of feelings? Are we going to optmize the human gene code? Are we going to create new species and artificial ecosystems? Will the human body of today still have a place in this scenario? How is the emergence of quantum computers going to affect our worldview? Are we going to explore new social systems? How is climate change going to change our lives? How are ideas and visions – such as immortality, humans transforming into software, or the race to mars going to influence our thoughts and decisions?
What makes your mind struggle most when you think about the future?
These are among the thrilling questions we will explore in our extraordinary long-term study “The Future of Your Children.” With this study we model how possible futures of ten real kids born in the year 2015 might look like in their daily lives. We will follow these protagonists on their way to various futures that will extend to the year 2115, and try to develop prototype scenarios based on questions such as: What could life look like in 2025 from the perspective of a ten-year-old? Or life in 2065 from the perspective of a 50-year-old? Or 2115 through the eyes of a centenarian?
Our long-term study employs methods for social research to tackle its unique 100-year perspective. The framework of the study design is open and builds upon a continous optimization and enrichment of our methods. Using the qualitative Delphi method, we interview 100 experts annually in the key topics such as the future of our bodies, relationships,places, pathways or how and where we are going to experience our daily life. Our pool of experts is composed of players in future-shaping areas such as politics, tech, business, and social culture.
In line with this thematic diversity, we draw on a broad foundation: The first five years of the study alone will involve 500 experts (100 per year). Even later on, the study will remain a dialogue as those experts who took part in the first year will have the opportunity to adapt and expand their predictions five years down the road. From this point on, the study will also offer key insights into predictive competencies in various areas of society.
The further we move into the future, the more difficult it becomes to describe it clearly and reliably. For this reason, we include the scenario technique in our methodology in order to address the plurality of the future, in our case, ten futures. This technique provides a means of depicting a large number of futures which are all possible, yet also differ significantly from one another. Highly predictable near-future developments provide for a common frame of reference: the standard scenario. This serves as the foundation for various core scenarios. This is the point from which the life stories of our protagonists begin to diverge. The 100-year horizon also includes wild cards, massive events – such as climate catastrophes – which cannot be predicted but which significantly change the course of events.
With our long-term study, we create thinking models on possible futures. With a variety of models, we enable an active discussion of things that have not yet occurred: More specifically, we make future something that can be discussed even today. The major focus of the study is to launch wide-scale public discourse about our future and, in doing so, to train our future senses. We view our long-term study as a social project that creates the possibility to actively engage with emerging changes. How will we live in the future? And more importantly: How do we want to live?